Raqqa, ISIS Capital in Syria, Falls to U.S.-Backed Militias - John Davison (Reuters-U.S. News)
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias backed by the U.S., have completely taken Syria's Raqqa from Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.
Ahmad Khan Rahimi Found Guilty of New York Bombing - Michael Wilson (New York Times)
A federal jury in Manhattan on Monday convicted Afghanistan-born Ahmad Khan Rahimi, 29, of a two-day bombing campaign in and around New York City last year. The conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.
UN Threatens to Blacklist Israeli Telecommunications Giant Bezeq - Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon)
The UN Human Rights Council has written to the CEO of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq,
demanding that it cease operations in the West Bank or face a potential designation as a human rights abuser. Bezeq is the successor to Israel's original telephone company.
"Bezeq provides landline, cellular, internet, and cable TV services to residents of settlements in the West Bank," the UNHRC wrote in its letter.
Israeli Doctor Elected Head of World Medical Association - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
Israel Medical Association chairman Prof. Leonid Eidelman was elected president of the World Medical Association (WMA) at its annual meeting in Chicago.
Eidelman manages the anesthesiology department at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.
Work on Israel-Cyprus-Greece Electricity Link to Start in 2018 (AP-Washington Post)
Nasos Ktorides, who heads the EuroAsia Interconnector project, said Monday in Nicosia, Cyprus, that work on an electric cable linking the power grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece is on track to start in the first quarter of 2018.
The 1,520-km. (945-mile) undersea electric cable with a 2,000-megawatt capacity will be able to both receive and transmit electricity.
Work on the cable is expected to last until 2022.
Turkey-Israel Talks on Natural Gas Pipeline at "Advanced Stage" - Ebru Sengul and Muhsin Baris Tiryakioglu (Anadolu-Turkey)
Dror Cohen, an adviser to Israel's Minister of National Infrastructure and Energy, said Friday that Turkish-Israeli talks on a proposed natural gas pipeline to bring Israeli gas to Europe are at an "advanced stage," with discussions currently focusing on the price and the route.
Cohen also said that Israel was keeping its options open for the export of gas to Greece and Egypt. "We can do it in parallel with all three [Turkey, Greece, Egypt]."
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- Netanyahu: U.S. Facing Up to Danger from Iran - Maria Bartiromo
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News on Sunday:
"Iran is the foremost terrorist state of our time. It hangs gays, jails journalists, subjugates women, and foments terrorism throughout the world and wild aggression in the Middle East. To have a regime like this, whose economy is 30 times the size of North Korea...acquire an arsenal of nuclear weapons in 10 years' time, which is what the Iran agreement now provides Iran to do, is a terrible folly."
"So I commend the president for taking a historic and bold decision to avert this danger in time. He could have kicked the can down the road. He could have said it's not going to happen on my watch so I'll just let it go. But he didn't....He gave an opportunity for all of us in the Middle East and beyond to fix this deal, fix it or nix it."
"There are several key things you want to make sure. One is that you don't remove the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program just by changing the calendar. You want to see a real change in Iran's behavior. That's eliminating the so-called automatic sunset clause on restrictions. The second thing is to prevent Iran from developing intercontinental ballistic missiles that are only useful for nuclear weapons....The third thing is to see that you have real inspections. Right now Iran doesn't allow you to inspect military sites. It lets you inspect everywhere else. Well, where do you think they are going to hide these things?"
"The president is right to put that forward now and to say I'm not going to authorize the continuation of a very bad deal that will give a rogue criminal state the power to threaten the United States mainland." (Fox News)
- Iraqi Forces Push into Kirkuk as Kurds Withdraw - Balint Szlanko and Philip Issa
Iraqi forces pushed their Kurdish allies out of the city of Kirkuk on Monday. Iraqi forces were supported by the Popular Mobilization Forces, a predominantly Shiite militia coalition that the Kurds see as an instrument of Iranian policy. As Arabs and Turkmen celebrated the change of power in Kirkuk, thousands of Kurdish residents packed the roads north to Irbil, the Kurdish capital.
Kirkuk, a city of more than 1 million, is 32 km. (20 miles) outside the Kurds' autonomous region in northeast Iraq. It was taken by the Kurds in 2014 to block an advance by Islamic State after Iraq's armed forces crumbled.
See also Iran Behind Kurdish Withdrawal from Kirkuk - Dexter Filkins
On Sunday, Qassem Suleimani, Iran's chief spymaster, met with the leaders of the PUK, one of the two main Kurdish political parties.
Within hours, PUK fighters began abandoning their posts, making way for Iraqi military units that took over the former Kurdish positions and a stretch of oil fields near the city of Kirkuk.
See also Pentagon Says Support for Iraqi Forces Could End If Attacks on Kurds Continue - Joe Gould
The U.S. may consider halting its massive train-and-equip program for Iraqi forces if the Iraqi military continues its offensive against Kurds in northern Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said Monday.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "The United States provided equipment and training to the Government of Iraq to fight ISIS and secure itself from external threats - not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments, which is a longstanding and valuable partner of the United States." (Defense News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu Tells Russian Defense Minister: We Will Not Allow Iran into Syria - Itamar Eichner
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu Tuesday that Israel will not allow Iran to entrench its military forces in Syria.
- Photos-Video: Massive Section of Western Wall and Roman Theater Uncovered in Jerusalem - Amanda Borschel-Dan
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists announced Monday that for the past two years they have been excavating and exposing a massive eight-meter deep section of Jerusalem's Western Wall, unseen for 1,700 years. In an area directly beneath Wilson's Arch, they unexpectedly discovered a small Roman theater. (Times of Israel)
See also Roman Theater Uncovered at Base of Jerusalem's Western Wall - Ilan Ben Zion
Israeli archaeologists on Monday announced the discovery of a Roman-era theater in Jerusalem's Old City that abuts the Western Wall. The unfinished semi-circular theater is believed to date to the second or third centuries. It might have been designed to seat 200 people. The excavations have exposed the first row of seats, orchestra area, and part of the stage. The excavations have also exposed eight previously uncovered rows of stones in the Temple Mount's western retaining wall. (AP)
- Jerusalem Arab Burns Hand Hurling Firebomb at Israeli Security Forces
A man was arrested Sunday in the east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of A-Tur after he burned his hand throwing a firebomb at security forces. Officers administered medical treatment to the man and then detained him.
(Times of Israel)
- How to Defeat the Islamic Republic - Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh
Islam is growing weaker within Iran. Mosques are now mostly empty even on religious holidays. Seminaries have few recruits. Ayatollah Khamenei has planted Iran's flag from the Gulf to the Mediterranean, but imperialism carries costs, as the Shiite militias Iran arms and local allies it subsidizes burden its treasury.
The U.S. should once more establish contact with and financially assist dissident organizations in Iran. Trump should embrace Reagan's model of speaking directly to the Iranian people while castigating their illegitimate regime. Washington should again impose crippling sanctions to deny the mullahs their patronage networks, the key to their power. Mr. Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Proposed Deal Proves Hamas Rule Was a Disaster for Palestinians - Frida Ghitis
Regardless of whether the latest Hamas-Fatah reconciliation plan succeeds, the agreement makes clear that Hamas has completely failed the test of governing. For the people of Gaza, the decade under Hamas rule has brought nothing but misery, bloodshed and despair. Hamas' inflexible militancy, while perhaps inspirational to some, resulted in three disastrous wars with Israel and diversion of resources toward weaponry instead of civilian uses.
Hamas has proven itself incapable of improving living standards for people living under its rule, and it cannot justify that failure by pointing to any other achievements. By any measure it has also failed at furthering its stated goal of replacing Israel with a Palestinian state.
Video: There Is a Precedent for Renegotiating Flawed Agreements - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Is it realistic to try to deal with the flaws in the Iran agreement and change them? In fact, there's precedent for it. In 1979, the Carter Administration negotiated the SALT-2 treaty with the Soviet Union. Whereas the Iran agreement was never a formal treaty, SALT-2 was a negotiated treaty.
- But the SALT-2 treaty was flawed. It did not adequately address the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It put a limit on the growth of the nuclear forces of the two superpowers, but it didn't reduce them.
- Subsequently, however, a new administration came into power under President Ronald Reagan and he decided a different approach was necessary. It was called START - strategic arms reduction talks. Rather than limiting the growth of nuclear weapons, it reduced them, and this became the preferred approach.
- During the last few weeks a number of flaws in the Iran agreement have come out, but the one that received the most focus was "Section T" of the JCPOA. What Section T tries to do is define activities in the area of weaponization that are prohibited. But, of course, Iran has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency or anyone to do proper verification to see that Section T in the Iran agreement has been addressed by them.
- This is a huge flaw. One has to remember that in the May 2011 report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are frightening details about the Iranian nuclear program that include weaponization activities. It says that the Iranians were conducting design work and modeling studies involving the removal of the conventional explosive payload from the warhead of a Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.
- Presently, President Trump's strategy to reopen the Iran agreement to remove the flaws and produce an agreement that will safely protect the interests of the West is the only reasonable approach.
Amb. Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is president of the Jerusalem Center.
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